Posted in Blogging, ETMOOC

Etiquettes with Blogging

Etiquette and expectations for blogging and commenting has always been part of my blogging journey with my students.  Being thoughtful as both a writer and reader are important.  I love that my students start to think of themselves as writers, but more importantly, I love the community they build through the process of “joining the conversation” with each other through feedback.  Their virtual community has transferred into the classroom itself – bringing the students together as a family. Blogging has allowed our walls to literally and figuratively disappear as the students work together to inspire, encourage, respect, and validate each other.   Here is an example of a student’s comment from our student blog and the writer’s response:

Dear Gurleen,
This piece, in a kind of tragic way, was beautifully written and illustrates the existing ignorance that continues to plague our society. “Due to my awareness of my flaw, I am able to hold myself accountable to discovering one’s true nature through personal experience rather than what I have been told.” This sentence made me smile because you do exude that radiant confidence and are able to hold yourself up throughout the length of any bad day. The relevance of this judgment issue is one you portray very well in your writing through honesty and passion.
To improve, I would suggest expanding upon your personal experiences with this topic as you slightly mentioned in your first paragraph. It would add another layer of understanding especially for the readers and make it more relatable.
As soon as I saw you writing as much as you did in the lab last week, I knew this was going to be worth reading and it absolutely was. Your devotion to this piece clearly reflects and hopefully, this is an issue that eventually will resolve in the future.
Hey Guys,
Firstly, thank you so much for reading my blog! Coming from you two ,who art is almost a second nature for , it means a lot that you liked the comparison.
Kiran, that’s a good point and I realized after reading you comment that I do that quite often. Thanks for pointing it out and making me accountable to putting it to a stop. It definitely takes away the experience from the reader and would make my writing better to let them deduct it themselves.
Namitha, holy that was long. It’s always nice to know that someone can hear your voice in your writing so I appreciate that. Adding that personal touch would’ve made this that much stronger, and I’m regretting leaving it out now. From now on I’ll add a little bit of my personal experiences to help you see it from my P.O.V. and make it more relatable for the readers. I also hope that in the near future equality is no longer something we have to fight for, and will become something we begin to wonder why was ever a struggle to achieve.
Thank you again for reading my blog. From the two of you, whose writing I think is absolutely brilliant, it means so much that you read and commented on my blog.

So, I have been very happy thus far, but I am ready for next steps to improve our process.  Thanks to Sue Waters’s Thursday session on Advanced Blogging through etmooc, I have had some “aha” visions for my next steps with my students:

  1. We need to learn to embed pictures, music, videos, and links in their blogs.  It makes their work more interesting, inviting, honest, and it joins the conversation with the rest of the world.
  2. We need to learn to write engaging, creative, thoughtful and relevant titles.
  3. We need to respond and link to each others’ work to further the discussion.
  4. We need to be grateful to those who take the time to read our work and comment  (as Gurleen does above).
  5. We need to take commenting to the next level.  We already write to our blogger in the form of a letter, we offer positive and a constructive criticism, but I want to add the expectation of furthering the discussion.  (see my ideas in the box below)
  6. We need to be “tagging” our own work as I believe that is part of the metacognitive process in the “final touches” of their posts!
  7. Finally, we need to be more mindful of “polished” work; we don’t take enough time to structure, revise, edit, or embed with their posts.

So, if you have any comments, questions, feedback, models, suggestions, or if you just want to join the conversation on this subject, I look forward to it!




Format = friendly letter form Dear ______________________,

  1. Encouragement
  2. Praise
  3. Reaction – when positive

(be specific, thoughtful, friendly tone)


  1. Suggestions for improvement
  2. Be specific
  3. Be a helpful and kind tutor

C)   Further the Discussion:

  1. Response to another comment
  2. Enter the conversation about the idea the blogger presented in their post
  3. Provide added value
  4. Offer links that could help to improve or continue the conversation

Sincerely,  ________________________________

*Etiquette is to ALWAYS respond to any comment that was given to you on the blog.  Try to further the conversation!




* GUMPS = Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Punctuation, and Spelling – Ensure you Edit to Eliminate Gumps!

More advice on Commenting:

Posted in ETMOOC, Personal Response

The Light Shines in the Dark

A powerful light shines in the dark.
A powerful light shines in the dark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mysterious forces of the universe never cease to amaze me.  As doors close, windows open.  Once, in a relationship crash of my twenty-something years, my father – who thinks pragmatically like any true businessman – tried to comfort me with “don’t look at this as an obstacle, rather, look at it like an opportunity!”  This “insensitivity” sparked a teenage-like rage of disbelief and betrayal in my heart!  How could he liken my broken relationship to a business euphemism?  Ah – but that travelling salesman – my daddy – was all too wise!  That truth has become a mantra of my life; thankfully I could put my emotional ego aside to see that wisdom – those loving and supportive words, eventually, brought light to my darkness.  Thus, the universe does this to us too, repeatedly!  It brings us situations that are obstacles and conflicts until we learn how to make them our opportunities.

I have thought of this often this week through challenges!  There have been many obstacles and my emotional side often frustrates through it all.  But slowly, the week has offered me far more opportunities and I will choose to focus on those.

To begin, I – gulp – took up the call for proposals for NCTE  2013 regarding the blogging journey I’ve experienced with my students.  This is pure opportunity, a dream to hope for!   I do not expect such an honour of presenting at this event that I truly, truly love, but I am proud that I took a chance to make a dream come true.  After-all, as my first blog here states: “Pretending that next time I could be presenting at such a conference as this! But in truth, I just basked in the glory of the gurus and the geniuses wondering if I’d ever really grow up and be wise like the big kids and as energetically creative as the young kids?”  I truly believe in NCTE and how it has transformed me as a teacher!   The PLN and sharing we speak of here in our etmooc course really made me feel the confidence I needed to take a risk and try.

Second blessing of my week – tweeting with  one of my professional idols – Penny Kittle.  As an English high school teacher, this  fine lady is a mentor to my professional growth.  I first encountered her at 2011 NCTE and again I basked in her glory at 2012 NCTE!   She is pure inspiration!  If you are an English teacher – you truly need her!  In fact, my subtitle on this blog is “Blogging Beside My Students”, which is an emulation to her book Write Beside Them.  Alas, I am so excited that she will be coming to Alberta to do workshops with writing!  I noticed on her website that she would be in two other provincial cities this coming month – so I advocated to our local PD and they are bringing her to us too.  Okay, true, I could be accused of being a stalker.  But, I promise you Penny, I’m just humbly respectful of  your amazing energy and talent!  I hope you’ll still take me up on the coffee and tour (it seems Oprah wasn’t interested when she came to town this week).  Just the courage it took me to tweet Penny warrants a coffee – I hope!

Now, as the universe has offered me some painful lessons this week, it also brought great “lights” to my life!  First of all, I reconnected with this amazing teacher who has been a virtual friend and mentor to me – my PLN  (personal learning network).  I met this amazing lady – Carol Mayne – about four years ago via the English Companion Ning.  Ironically, she is in neighbouring Canmore (in the mountains via Calgary).  As I was learning about PLN and sharing, I longed for my friend who I had lost touch with over a year ago.  Luckily – I quickly found her – and it turns out we were finding each other serendipitously via this course.  Amazing!  I am so grateful to have her back in my world and we are planning an actual meeting, as real humans!  Furthermore,  I just saw great clarity of good people in my life – the gifts  of my family, dear friends, and amazing student teachers who I get to collaborate with in my classroom!  I have been blessed by many loving, light-filled people!

Finally, I have really enjoyed reading many blogs this week that transform one’s “wounded” spirit.  But the two that truly to spoke to my inner truth were:

These blogs, this course, that conference, the tweets, these people all remind me: “don’t look at this as an obstacle, rather, look at it like an opportunity!”  Essentially, there is much more grace and gratitude to be had in my week than I had felt before.  I choose to focus on the opportunities and be grateful for them.  I guess that pragmatic dad of mine was right all along!  Thanks Daddy!

View of Canmore, AB from the abandoned tea hou...
View of Canmore, AB from the abandoned tea house up Mount Lady MacDonald (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted in ETMOOC

“Tell all the Truth …”

I was reading some poetry this evening, cause that’s what lit-geeks like me do, and serendipitously found this Emily Dickinson poem that resonated deeply with me on many levels, especially in regards to my quixotic pursuit of the paradigm shift with educational technology that I spoke of in my last post.

Tell All The Truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

Essentially, I hear Emily Dickinson stating that all the razzle and dazzle of truth must be revealed slowly and mindfully, otherwise we would be blinded by its immediate radiance.  This, too,  is true for learning in our etmooc course (!  Essentially, the learning is not a linear process but, rather, it is a indirect process that slowly reveals “truth”.  We are drawn in to explore and question based on our personal interest and needs –  taking the time to find the truths to the  circuitous paths we are each exploring.

Posted in ETMOOC, Uncategorized

Beginnings and Endings

Typewriter (Photo credit: toastytreat87)

Well, it has been a very busy week at school – the summative week with my beloved 1st semester classes.  I truly mean it – I have adored my classes this semester.  So this week has been both stressful and emotional.  Oftentimes, what I love about teaching is the “etch-a-sketch” mentality of being able to shake my head after a semester and start a-fresh.  Sometimes, I (secretly) cheer about the freedom from “that” group that is impending.  This time, I cry.  Each class has embedded its quirks and quarks into my heart and I adore these kids!   So, saying good-bye today was bitter, not sweet.  How is it that our experience was so transformational?  Well, I truly believe that part of the power of our family (x3) was our class blogging ( and  These blog sites (via hosts the formative writing of my students.  Moreover, the comments the students make to each other truly demonstrates the great quality of character these kids can have towards each other when opportunity and expectation are married.  Essentially, my classroom walls have disappeared and our learning has become visible and interactive.  Yet, as I mourn the loss of my kids – I celebrate the opportunity to clean the slate and see if I can improve instruction and engagement even further next semester – mindfully and innovatively.

To meet these Professional and Personal Growth Plans (PGP), with hopes for the future, I’ve signed up for this wonderful free online course: etmooc – Educational Technology and Media Open Online Course.  It is a place where I hope to get professional support, guidance, and inspiration for integrating more opportunities to transform the learning forum of my class.

At the NCTE (National Council Teachers of English) conference in Vegas this year I was inspired by the 21st Century Learning and Creative Learning musings and philosophies of the ingenious Sir Ken Robinson who many of you probably know from this transformational RSA Animate:

Changing Paradigms: RSA Animate

This animate just makes sense.  Sir Ken Robinson just makes sense!  When I viewed this two years ago, I knew I had to work towards a paradigm shift too, if I wanted to be relevant as a teacher to my students, in their world.  Hence, I began the journey into blogging as a stage for my students’ writing.  My other identity is that of a theatre major and a drama teacher, so the concept of “page to stage” has always been in the forefront of my teaching in drama.  Blogging now gives me a stage in the ELA classroom – and the kids have been hooked.  Suddenly, audience and purpose are highly engaging lessons – as are grammar  lessons (the GUMPS – grammar, usage, mechanics, punctuation, and spelling)!  Suddenly, a grammar lesson is equivalent to a makeover session!

So in my quixotic quest for paradigm shifts, and in the course of this crazy, busy, emotional week – I signed up for etmooc (  I haven’t been able to hear any Webinar yet since they are at 5pm here in Calgary, and I’m still in traffic, then on the repeat session – I’m teaching.  But it is okay because of the concept where “cMOOCs are not proscriptive, and participants set their own learning goals and type of engagement.” So, I catch what I can via the twitter (new to me), google + (new to me), blogs, one taped webinar (new to me) and the main site.

Already, I read about some wonderful educators and some cool techie-apps and widgity-thing-a-lings such as “RSS”, “Evernote”, “”, and “Haiku Deck”.  All things that I hope to play with over the next two weeks of exams as I set to re-organize my classroom, my courses, my life, my family, my home, my health, and my virtual work with etmooc “Each Time More Online Organized Chaos”!

1 ETMOOC Orientation wk 1
1 ETMOOC Orientation wk 1 (Photo credit: dennisar)
Posted in ETMOOC

Never Stop Learning

Disney - Pooh Reaching For Honey
Disney – Pooh Reaching For Honey (Photo credit: Express Monorail)

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I’ve managed to find another honey pot to stick my head in.  I’m not sure if it is another form of procrastination – which I have a PH.D. in – or if it is an undeniable opportunity to learn and gain proficiency in projects I’ve been focusing on developing in my personal and professional growth and development.  Tonight – when I avoiding a dining table full of marking finish – I signed up for a free online Educational Technology course ( if interested:  In my defense, I discovered the course this week at our PD session on Tech in the Classroom via the illustrious Alec Couros, and I was alerted again to the course via an advertisement on the student blog site when I was marking the students’ blogs – I was marking!  So, it could be argued serendipity, not procrastination, led me to join.

Alas, I’m a workaholic high school English teacher who is always struggling to make each day better than the last with my children – Luca and Tulia, my love – Cristian, my students, my classes, myself, and my friends – in that order, probably!  I have a nagging  habit of getting stuck in multiple pots – but it is my passion of learning that drags me into these various bee nests.

So, why have I climbed this latest tree?  Well, for the past three years I have been pioneering blogging with my students, and I have learned to do so via trial and error and from the educational community online.  Technology is not a natural extension of my skills – it is a strange and foreign forest that often overwhelms.  But I believe in the transformational power of online learning for both me and my students.  So, I continue to seek out platforms to engage their learning and empower them to find their voices as readers and writers.  I love that blogging allows my students’ hearts and minds to be enjoyed by a larger community of readers, than just me!

But I believe there are many platforms for me to learn and embrace as an educational leader with my students – so it is my hope that Alec and his direction of this #etmooc course will help me build my skills and knowledge for more growth and development that takes our learning to the next level.

Furthermore, next year it is our family plan to live in Argentina for a semester – second semester.  So, I’m hoping this course can introduce me to learning with online technologies as well as, perhaps, open up opportunities to collaborate with my school online.

So, in the wee hours of the morning here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I bid the #etmooc community a fond hello.

Disney's adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc....
Disney’s adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc.’s Winnie-the-Pooh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted in Uncategorized

The Moment of Truth

Perenoel1875-1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He stared.  He glared.  His lip pursed.  His forehead crinkled.  He was silent.  “What’s wrong bud?” I queried as I busily put away the dishes.
“Are you and dad Santa?” the silence was broken with a knockdown punch.  Caught cold, I floundered and sputtered trying to improv my way through this dreaded moment.  I have no idea what I replied, but it was a weak cover-up, and the glare continued to weaken me.  It has come to THIS moment! Help! “I was playing the X-Box Kinnect [the gift from Santa], and there is a picture of daddy on it.”
“Well, daddy was playing it last night!” I thought I had a clear recovery!
“Mom!  It has the date and time on the picture from last month!” Argh!  Why does he have to be so darn smart! “So?” he asks impatiently!

And I am revealed.  There is nothing I can do  – this is the moment they speak of, the moment when you can no longer sell belief because magic is now a lie!  My heart cracks and bleeds as innocence is slaughtered with my solemn confirmation, “Yes baby, mom and dad are Santa!”  His intense glare bursts into a painful sob with tears streaming down his sweet baby cheeks.  I hold him.  I want to reverse the last two minutes and find a way to maintain the magic.  I’m at a loss.  We hold each other – he is now only two inches shorter than I am – and we collapse into a common grief, both wishing this didn’t just happen.  He doesn’t tell me at this moment, but I know the truth is only revealed to him.  He has protected his sister.  I know.  But I couldn’t protect him.

I release him and tell him we need to go upstairs to tell daddy.  I’m at a loss and can’t bear this alone.  He protests, he pulls back, he begs – he does not want to talk to his daddy.  I’m confused and frustrated.  I need daddy. We need daddy.  So I drag and demand him up the stairs.

We enter the bedroom and daddy responds, “What’s wrong?”  I retell to him about the moment of truth that just left our spirits in a knockout on the kitchen floor.  Luca cries.  I cry.  Daddy holds us and says, “you shouldn’t have told him; why didn’t you come and get me?”

“I couldn’t!  It was that moment where I needed to be honest – he knew!  It was that line where I could never ask him to be honest with me if I was not honest with him when he asked, directly!” I protested, emotionally, defending myself, although I too was condemning my own actions.

“I understand” he consoles us.  We three grieve.  Luca realized too that no Santa means no Tooth Fairy and no Easter Bunny either!  But then my magically wise husband reweaves the magic.

Luca and I sit on the end of the bed and daddy kneels down in front of Luca as he says, “Luca, you need to understand that Santa does exist.  He does!  Mommy believes. I believe.  Think of the news on the TV the other night where all the people at Canada Post were sorting the letters to Santa.  Why would they do that if they don’t believe?”  Luca shrugs.  I’m confused and worried as to where this is going.    “Those people at Canada Post do that work because they believe in the magic of Christmas.  They do this to save the belief in magic!  Mommy and daddy work hard at making Christmas happen because we believe in the magic of Christmas.  Luca, Santa is a belief that you hold in your heart.  When you’re little you believe in an actual Santa coming into your house, but when you get older and you learn what you learned today, you need to understand that Santa is real, in your heart. You are now a Guardian.  A Guardian of magic and belief.  As a Guardian you need to help weave the magic in the world to protect magic in the hearts of children, like your sister.  But you also must be a Guardian to keep the magic in your own heart.  Inside all people – like mommy and daddy – are child versions of ourselves and the magic of believing is important for our inner children to continue believing.  We can keep believing when we become Guardians.  It is like how people believe in God, it is important to have belief because it pulls people together with positive energy to believe in something better.  Magic and belief pulls you through dark moments in your life.  So, Luca, it is important that you are now a Guardian of magic and belief.”

With that magical speech, my brilliant and wise husband restored the magic of the season and even elevated it to a higher level and purpose.  His intuitiveness recognized the pain in our beloved son – the fear of losing the magic.  But, instead of the emptiness of nothingness,  he gave Luca the power to believe. It is so important to us that Luca can still be a kid and by bestowing the honour of Guardian, he has protected both the kid in Luca and other kids.    The motto of Luca’s Guardianship role: ” Be Magical!  Believe!  Imagine!”

Prophetically, Luca has spent the rest of the holiday getting lost in the magical worlds of The Hobbit and The Never-Ending Story and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Building belief and realizing true magic is the most powerful moment of truth!

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...
English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)